This article will explain what steps to take to start accepting transactions using a credit card machine and which credit card machines for small businesses are best.
Small Business Credit Card Machine Essentials
Credit card purchases are quickly becoming the norm in the UK, and now even small businesses require credit card machines to make purchasing products easier for their customers.
There are several steps that a small business must take to start accepting credit card transactions. The first is to set up a small business merchant account with a qualified bank. This is where payments made by card will come through. Next you need a payment gateway, which you can apply for separately to get a deal, or accept the one used by your merchant account provider.
Read more about setting up a merchant account for a small business.
The software and hardware you will need for your business will depend on your industry and size. A PDQ machine for a small business can be a single static till, or a smartphone card reader that can work anywhere there is WIFI. It is up to you to decide which option will work best for your small business.
Countertop Card Machines
One of the best credit card machines for small businesses, and perhaps the most commonly used, is the hard wired credit card terminal. This is a stable option that allows small businesses with one transaction point to process cards quickly and efficiently.
These terminals are electronically linked, usually through a telephone line, to your merchant account. They work on the basis of Chip and PIN, or an electronic swipe facility that instantly records a customer's details, allowing the transaction to be processed providing there are sufficient funds in their account.
This type of credit card machine can either be obtained through one's merchant account provider or from independent companies online. Costs will vary depending upon the make and model, but competition between suppliers is strong so it is worthwhile comparing them.
Portable Card Machines
Portable card machines allow users to move with the terminal, which is perfect for industries such as restaurants, where the terminal will need to be taken to the table.
These terminals work through Bluetooth technology, connecting the terminal to the payment portal. The batteries will need to be charged intermittently to maintain smooth running, however battery power can last for up to 150-200 transactions with particular terminals.
Another factor to consider is the distance. The terminals can generally operate to up to 200 ft from the charging point, however this is generally more than enough to cover the premises.
Mobile Card Machines
Mobile card machines process credit cards through your mobile or tablet by using an add-on for your device, which works with a wireless connection.
Fully mobile solutions require downloading and installing a card reader app. The customer can then enter their details which, providing the software used is up to standard and fully secure, should become encrypted and passed to the account provider instantly.
Hardware can also be added should one wish to include a swipe facility on a portable device. Mobile card machines are a particularly good option for those small businesses that are not fixed in a single location. However, you should take extra care not to lose a phone enabled with this technology and hardware since information, even when encrypted, can often be retrieved once stolen.
Lastly, it may be beneficial to know that wireless account providers differ from traditional merchant account providers in that accounts are often set up more quickly.
Pricing, however, can be just as complex, therefore it is vital to ensure you have all the facts to hand before finalising any agreement and making a potentially costly mistake.
Best Credit Card Terminal Models for Small Businesses
As to specific terminals, there is no one best choice. Look for the features you need at the price you can afford. We will examine some of the more popular models below.
Hypercom’s 4200 series
These are durable and easy to use, but can be a bit clunky in design, especially the handheld units. The T4220 is a large countertop unit that performs well overall. The M4240 is larger than many competing brands but does have an excellent range on its Bluetooth connection. The M4230 connects to the mobile phone network to process transactions, and can connect to a base station to dial up through a land line.
Verifone’s VX series
Verifone VX series
The VX510, for example, is a good all-around countertop unit, especially for high sales volume shops. The VX670 is a handheld device that uses a wifi connection rather than Bluetooth. This gives it a better range, but can slow it a bit, depending on signal strength.
Axalto’s MagIC series
These are an older design, but durable and well-made. The handheld units like the MagIC 6000 will accept swipe cards, so if you need that functionality they are not a bad choice. The X5 is a heavy handheld unit, but has a good look and features privacy guards on the keypad. Bear in mind that the Axalto MagIC PDQ terminals require special thermal paper to print receipts, something the industry overall is moving away from.
Ingenico’s iWL series
Ingenico’s iWL series
These handheld terminals are small, lightweight, and relatively feature-heavy. The mobile terminals connect with either GRPS or 3G technology, but can fall back on Bluetooth or wifi (depending on the model selected). They also print receipts quickly and most have a swipe reader as well.
Ingenico EFT 930
Ingenico EFT 930
These countertop and portable card readers are quite popular, and account for a large fraction of the terminals in use today. Unfortunately they are considered outmoded now. They are not compliant with the latest regulations regarding Pin security, and cannot be used from April of 2017. In the short term, that does mean that prices on this unit are falling rapidly. With credit card machine prices falling overall, this is not a good choice for a small business credit card machine.
Mobile or Tablet Apps
These apps let you key credit card transactions into your existing mobile device manually. The quality varies widely, depending on the app. The good points are that you don’t have to invest in buying or hiring the device, and that you will otherwise probably be carrying both. On the bad side, people sometimes react badly to the process. It doesn’t look secure, even if you use a top-quality app.
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